B.C. environmental group considers challenge to Delta LNG terminal

Tilbury Jetty will supply LNG bunkering vessels with re-fueling services, Ecojustice may try to halt it
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Construction workers are seen on top of the FortisBC Tilbury LNG expansion project in Delta, B.C., Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

An environmental organization is currently considering its options when it comes to challenging a Delta liquified natural gas project.

Tilbury Jetty Limited Partnership last week received approval from the federal government to build a new marine jetty — or dock — located on Tilbury Island along the south arm of the Fraser River. The facility will supply LNG bunkering vessels with re-fueling services.

Ottawa's decision clears the path for Tilbury to apply for various federal permits and comes after B.C. had given the facility its approval in March.

Authorities first started considering the facility in 2015. It is expected to operate for 30 years and generate more than $100 million in goods and services. The proponents also claim it will help reduce environmental pollution by encouraging marine vessels to switch from conventional marine fuel to LNG marine fuel.

Fortis LNG Jetty Limited Partnership and Seaspan will co-own the facility, located next to FortisBC’s Tilbury LNG storage facility.

Roger Dall’Antonia, President and CEO of FortisBC, last week welcomed Ottawa's approval.

"This significant milestone allows the project to move forward in its goal of reducing emissions in the marine industry and provide benefits to our local economy, including through our agreement with Musqueam (First Nation),” he said.

But Vancouver-based Ecojustice says authorities failed to consider the facility's broader climate impact as it will help ship 3.5 million tonnes of fracked LNG per year from Delta to ports beyond.

Ecojustice's staff lawyer Imalka Nilmalgoda said B.C. finds itself in a bio-diversity and climate right now and the jetty exacerbates both.

"We just can't afford to be doing these things as we are in that climate crisis and as we are in that bio-diversity crisis," she said.

RELATED: LNG export jetty gets environmental approval for southwest B.C. coast

Approving LNG facilities ultimately means an expansion of fossil fuel use, Nilmalgoda said, adding LNG is not a suitable alternative to other forms of fossil fuels like coal.

"More fossil fuel is not going to get us to where we need to be to achieve (the goal of limiting future warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius) and have that safe climate future," she said.

The project also threatens endangered marine species like orcas, she added.

"They are critical to the eco-system and we need to make sure we're doing everything in our power to ensure that they have a fighting chance of survival."

The project's proponents must follow various conditions, but Nilmalgoda questions their efficacy with some conditions subject to the economic and operational exceptions.

"The mitigation measures are just not sufficient for protecting endangered species," she said. "None of the mitigation measures address the climate impacts or greenhouse gas emissions from upstream or downstream (emissions) of the project."

Ultimately, the project threatens B.C.'s adherence to its climate change goals, Nilmalgoda said.

Should Ecojustice take legal actions against the jetty, it would come after the organization took simialr action against the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Project on behalf of a larger coalition of groups.

RELATED: Ottawa cites jobs, capacity, approves B.C.’s Roberts Bank Terminal 2 port expansion.

Proposed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, that project is a three-berth marine container terminal located at Roberts Bank in Delta, about 35 kilometres south of Vancouver.

The project would transform more than 1.7 square kilometres of sub-tidal and tidal waters into a container port capable of handling 260 ships and more than 2.4 million containers a year. It would be connected to the current Deltaport terminal just north of the Tsawwassen B.C. Ferries terminal.

Nilmalgoda acknowledged the similarities between the two projects, adding that her group is comparing the jetty project with the port expansion project in weighing its options.

"But again, we are still in the process of assessing," she said. "We can't say one way or another what will happen."

Speaking an unrelated event in Surrey, Premier David Eby said the project is of critical importance to B.C. The shipping industry is moving away from bunker fuel to LNG fuel. Not having an LNG filling station could lead it to bypass the Port of Vancouver. Meanwhile, LNG fuel does reduces emissions in an industry among the most difficult to decarbonize.

Eby also pointed out that one of the approving conditions for the project was the eventual transition toward zero-emission fuels.

"LNG is not going to be the fuel of the future for the marine industry going forward," he said.

Eby said he respects the goals of environmental organizations like Ecojustice and others.

"They want us to move faster and do more," he said. "I want that too. But we also have to respond to the realities of the economic demands placed on British Columbia...and make sure that we're responsive to that as well."

B.C.'s Ministry of Environment said in a statement that the jetty comes with 22 legally enforceable provincial conditions that must be followed over the life of the project including plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions among other conditions.

The statement also points to the B.C.'s commitment to a cap on emissions from oil and gas.

"The cap will ensure the sector’s emissions are reduced by 33 to 38% below 2007 levels by 2030 and will apply to all LNG projects," it reads. "We also have a net-zero new industry policy that will require new LNG facilities to achieve net-zero by 2030 and all other new facilities net-zero by 2050."



Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with nowstarted in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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